Wellington: Director James Cameron announced that he will film three sequels to the record-breaking sci-fi epic “Avatar” in New Zealand after striking a deal with the government for increased production subsidies.
Cameron said the movies, with a combined minimum budget of at least NZ$500 million (US$415 million), will be shot back-to-back and released once every 12 months from late 2016.
The original “Avatar” was partially shot in New Zealand and its Oscar-winning special effects were created by Wellington’s Weta Digital, best known for its work on Kiwi director Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies.
“It’s quite a thrill to officially say that we’ll be bringing the Avatar films to New Zealand,” Cameron told reporters.
Aside from an increased subsidy that will account for up to 25 percent of the films’ budget, Cameron said New Zealand offered highly skilled production crews and world-class special effects.
“I’ve worked with crews all over the world, quite a bit in the US and Canada, and you don’t have that same spark (there),” he said.
“Business sense would have had to prevail and I’m glad that it never came to that,” he said.
Cameron whose other hits include “Titanic”, “Terminator” and “Aliens”, refused to reveal how much he thought the three films would cost to make but said he hoped it would be less US$1.0 billion.
The Canadian-born director, who owns a rural property just outside Wellington and is in the process of obtaining New Zealand residency with his family, said pre-production work, had already begun.
He said the sequels may employ the 48-frame a second technology twice the standard rate that Jackson used to mixed reviews in “The Hobbit”.